Welcome to a special Getting the Call on a Friday, coming to us from all the way across the pond as they say. We've heard from many writers, but this has to be one of my all time favorite writer success stories. If this doesn't give you a dose of inspiration to keep querying or finish that NaNo project, then you picked the wrong hobby. Thank you, Tony, for sharing your dedication to growing and improving as a writer.
WRITING SPECULATIVE FICTION - my own therapy?
Where amateurs are concerned, fiction writing is a hobby, a spare time art-form. An alternative to one's regular occupation, i.e. the day job. Indulged in, perhaps, as a form of therapy, or even for a spot of light relief. I’m using the word 'amateur' to imply non-professional, defined as 'unpaid labor', which brings me rapidly to the subject of Speculative Fiction.
Most editors, nowadays, probably suspect there are more writers around than readers ... and the art of genre fiction writing is becoming a form of therapy mostly indulged in by amateurs. Perhaps not just as a hobby, but a way to express and analyse one's feelings about the world, and where it's going, and communicate them too. There are easier ways to relieve one's feelings when it comes to pure therapy. In some countries they sell little clay idols, hideous to behold. With just a little imagination, a suitable one can be identified with the galling frustration of the moment. Rage and indignation does the rest. One's trials and tribulations presumably scatter in the breeze with the dust of the manikin as it crumbles in a hairy fist, or shatters against a convenient stone wall.
It seems a lifetime ago when to become your own psychiatrist, the minimum you needed was pencil and paper; but nowadays, a laptop computer is more convenient. Anywhere can become a couch and it's more socially acceptable than talking to one’s self… or beating up your partner.
So put it all down ... scribble away, unbutton that creative belt and let it all hang out. Put all your frustrations down in a story. Develop your characters and let them tell your conscience how you feel. Above all be honest with yourself, even if it hurts. You may discover that it often does.
That's how I got into all this, with the success I've experienced to date. I'd like to be a really wealthy writer, but I suspect I’ve left it too late in life. More important to me though, is the fact that I recognize and have adjusted to, my own limitations.
I spent about twenty five years, in different companies, designing and building up product lines, travelling the world, setting up distributors, crumpling the competition, getting the best out of my staff, listening to their problems, and solving them. Occasionally even my own when I had time. The closer I got to the top of the tree, the more I longed to turn in my collection of emotion-screening masks for an axe, and hack away at the plastic feet of all the false idols I seemed to be worshiping I was fed up with the commercial rat-race, and the way it submerged my appreciation of the simpler things in life.
I resented the never-ending battle, necessary to just stay level let alone to advance, and I was filled with remorse at the neglect of my home-life and family. Worst of all, my conscience was wearing me down. It refused to believe my contrived excuses and justification for what I was doing. I eventually realized that I really wanted to give it all up, but I needed the money. Some kind of Do-It-Yourself therapy was the only solution that appealed to me.
On aircraft, in trains, restaurants, waiting at airports, anywhere I had the time and the inclination I made notes and kept them. Some of them later turned into cynical poems, several with scientific themes, and I had many of them published. I was also well received whenever I could fit in time to give readings, on various club evenings, as well as radio and TV.
I did have a few short stories accepted, a long time ago, back in my SF fan days, but my first new project was a soul-searching, experimental, self-published, semi-autobiography work, entitled HOW TO BE A CHIEF EXECUTIVE. It took two years to write, and get off the ground, in between all the time I spent developing, and promoting international exports of advanced technology instruments and equipment. Well, last century, I did get a medal from the Queen for that day job, and the book did modestly well too, but whatever I spent marketing it, always brought in orders that almost exactly balanced my costs. This century however, it is available from Amazon and other outlets as an eBook and a paperback, and the revenue arrives at no cost to me at all.
Then one day I finally threw in my executive job and went to work for myself, as a computer programmer and instructor, specializing in developing AI software, which could generate business programs. With no more international travelling, I soon I found I had more time to start writing genre fiction again, and this century I’ve managed to complete over a hundred stories, including shorts and novelettes.
Relevant magazines, anthology publishers, and websites began to take my work, and I had success in several competitions. I’ve also won awards for a couple of my self-published collections, TENERIFE TALL TALES, and MACABRE TALES.
My first novel, POINTS OF VIEW, was published just before my 86th.birthday this year, by Eternal Press, in the USA. Yes, I’m still progressing, and in addition to being nearly ready with my second novel, I believe now that there can be contentment in approaching the limits of one's abilities. The trick is to get as far as you believe you can, or maybe even stop just before that.